My main complaint about Ender’s Game was that it lacked a sense of fun. I realize that is inherent in its subject matter, but it was still a complaint for me. Good news, Thor 2 more than made up for it.
Thor is a Marvel comics character, first published in 1962. However, the Thor world is taken directly from Norse mythology. Thor, his brother Loki, and their father Odin are characters that have existed for centuries. Their exploits are filled with the same arrogance and lessons that those of the Greek or Roman gods are. It made perfect sense then that the first Thor movie would be directed by Kenneth Branaugh, who is as close to a living reincarnation of William Shakespeare as you will find on this planet. The movie was part of the Marvel ‘Phase 1’ project, that was initialized by Iron Man, and Hulk. It came just before Captain America, which led into the final piece of Phase 1, the magnificent Avengers.
Marvel then successfully announced plans for ‘Phase 2’, and even more successfully began them with Iron Man 3 earlier this year. It wasn’t as good as Iron Man 1, but it was definitely better than Iron Man 2. My expectations with Thor 2 were that it would continue that trend. Where Thor 1 had a gorgeous look, fabulous action, and surprising sense of fun, I guessed that Thor 2 would drop the ball slightly. Thor is always difficult to relate to – he’s a god from a different spacial realm – so half the success of Thor 1 was putting him on earth and giving it a ‘fish-out-of-water’ feel. Thor 2 takes place mainly on Asgard with brief forays into other realms.
This movie begins with Thor and his trusty hammer Mjolnir helping to restore peace and order to the 9 realms with the assistance of Lady Sif and the Warriors Three (in mythology, Thor also has the belt Megingjoro, the gloves Jarngreipr, and the staff Grioarvolr – so don’t complain about pronouncing Mjolnir – it could be worse). Loki’s attack on New York took place just after the destruction of the bi-frost, and so the realms fell into chaos. The warriors are starting to see the results of their work, and are locking up various baddies from all the realms in their special prison wing. This gives Thor’s parents the opportunity to tell him he should think about settling down, probably with Sif, who seems to be holding a bit of a torch for him (Incidentally, in Norse Mythology, Thor is married to Sif). However, there is an approaching convergence of the realms (basically the same deal that was happening in the Tomb Raider movie if you remember – the Alignment?), and the lines between realms are becoming blurred. This just happens to be the perfect time for the long-ago vanquished Dark Elves (led by the 10th doctor and Heavy Duty from the first GI Joe movie) to wake from their slumber, seek out a weapon called the Aether, and seek to destroy all the realms in vengeance, or anger, or just bitterness – you know, all the things that Dark Elves are known for.
Meanwhile, on earth, physicist Jane Foster, her intern Darcy, and Darcy’s new intern Ian are bumbling around London looking for their missing mentor Erik Selvig while noticing some strange side-effects of the convergence. To her credit, Jane is attempting to not mope around because of not seeing Thor for two years and is even out on a date. However, they find some weird gravity holes here and there, the occasional teleportation loop, and floating trucks. While fooling around with these (I’m not going to lie, if I found a stairwell that I could drop a bottle down, it disappears before it hits the floor, then appears at the top to drop down again – that would keep me entertained almost all day), Jane accidentally gets sucked into one of the teleportation loops that puts her right where the Aether is being hidden. The Aether must have really loved Black Swan because it decides to bond with her. She then bamfs back to London, where Thor appears – because of course, Heimdall couldn’t see her for a moment, and Thor’s been constantly harassing Heimdall to watch Jane all the time. During a brief skirmish with the cops, Thor realizes she’s infected with something un-earthly, and whisks her away to Asgard where the queen of the Borg takes a look at her and determines that whatever is in her is dangerous and will probably kill her. Odin thinks this is just fine, delivering one of the best lines in the movie – that she no more belongs on Asgard, “than a goat belongs at a banquet table”, but Thor vows to save her. There’s not much time, as the Dark Elves – drawn to the Aether the way Captain Barbosa and his crew are drawn to their pirate gold – appear in some dark spaceships and attack the palace. Thor then has to defy his father to figure the best way to end Malekith’s plan (the leader of the Dark Elves) – which is just to destroy all nine realms.
This movie is really well directed by Alan Taylor, who has previously done some action-y TV shows, Game of Thrones in particular. It looks gorgeous, especially the moments on Asgard, which is all golden and vertical, and we get to see much more of it this time around. There is a moment where Thor and Jane are talking on a balcony overlooking a lake, and it looks like Naboo. The Asgardian costumes are impressive as well. The bits on earth are really hilarious, due mostly to the team of Stellan Skarsgaard and Kat Dennings, who seems to have earned herself more screen time this go-round. The movie had a decent story, great action, and a wonderful sense of fun. The final battle sequence is outstanding as it transfers from realm to realm and includes all the characters, alternating from silly to serious, to action packed to romantic. The first Thor had a wonderful fun tone, and this sequel maintains and excels that tone. It fits perfectly in the ongoing Marvel Phase, and makes me really look forward to their upcoming releases. There is an extended Captain America: the Winter Soldier trailer attached to the front, as well as the after the credit bits that you knew would be there – and yes – stay all the way through the credits (not just to the Thanos part, but to the Schwarma part).
Cast-wise, everyone really is settling in to their characters.
- Chris Hemsworth again is magnificent as Thor. He seems to enjoy himself, and does a great job of moping around Asgard longing for Jane. He’s charismatic and beautiful, and yes, there is the prerequisite shot of him shirtless for the ladies. It is completely gratuitous and has nothing to do with the plot, it’s just as excuse to let Hemsworth be shirtless for a moment. I personally felt there could have been more than one scene like that, but I’ll take what I can get!
- Tom Hiddleston was the breakout in the first Thor and continued to astound in the Avengers. Only someone as amazing as Hiddleston could hold down a villain role with that many heroes surrounding him. He’s equally wonderful and vile in this. You share Thor’s love and hate for Loki, desperately wishing you could trust him. The scenes with Loki and Thor bickering and fighting are wonderful and speaks to the great chemistry that Hemsworth and Hiddleston have built.
- Natalie Portman is fine as Jane Foster, she is a bit one-note, but loosens up more in this than I have ever seen her do before. Jane’s attempted date at the beginning (with the magnificent Chris O’Dowd from Bridesmaids), and the bumbling through the rest of the film are really entertaining, and give Portman the chance to be human.
- Kat Dennings really does have an expanded bit, she’s not acting so much as just being Kat Dennings, but she is really fun and entertaining in this. I especially liked her interaction with their new intern – Liam – and it still cracks me up when she calls the hammer Mew-Mew.
- Stellan Skarsgaard is also a little more expanded in this, and his Erik Selvig is barely recovered from Loki’s brain manipulation in the Avengers – and I do mean barely. For example, the first time we see him, he is tearing around Stonehenge naked. And that is absolutely as brilliant as you think it could be.
- Anthony Hopkins is in this to play Odin to chew the scenery, and he does a magnificent job at that. I particularly liked his interactions with Loki, and with Rene Russo as Frigga. Russo actually gets a whole lot more to do in this movie as well, including an entire battle scene with Malekith.
- Speaking of Malekith, Christopher Eccleston is the perfect choice as the villain in this movie. He’s grim and determined and wants nothing more than to plunge all 9 realms into the eternal darkness of nothing. I was really impressed with the dark elf makeup, especially on him. It is subtle and beautiful.
- Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who I always enjoy, plays Malekith's second in command and has some beautiful dark elf makeup as well, and then an amazing prosthetic when turned into ‘the Kursed’.
- Jaimie Alexander plays Lady Sif, and while she does seem to long after Thor a bit unrequitedly, she’s still a badass in battle. There have been rumblings about her as Wonder Woman previous to this. This will only add more momentum to that push.
- In terms of the other Warriors 3, Ray Stevenson continues to play Volstagg, Tadanobu Asano returns as Hogun (just with a longer wig in this one), and Zacary Levi steps in as Fandral instead of Josh Dallas (who I am guessing couldn’t return because he was busy with Once Upon A Time?). They each get a bit of business in this movie, and are very fun.
- Idris Elba’s Heimdall is far more action-packed in this movie and actually gets a chance to leave his little bridge-projector room. He also gets the chance to take the helmet off. The sequence where he takes out an entire ship is wonderful. He certainly proves that he’s worthy of his own superhero movie, just which one to cast him as…or perhaps James Bond? He’d be perfect for that.
Go see this – and see it now – and see it in 3D. It’s easily the movie I’ve enjoyed the most this year. Quality-wise, Gravity is probably the best movie I’ve seen this year, but again – that’s not why I go to movies. I go to be entertained. I love all the details in this movie: Thor hanging Mjolnir on a coat rack, the glimmer of Loki’s magic, Odin’s Raven, Frigga’s badassery, and the brief introduction of Benecio del Toro as the Collector. It’s everything a fun summer movie should be, which is even more welcome now, in the midst of the Oscar Movie Season doldrums.
10 out of 10. I loved it so much – it’s the only thing this year that made me want to turn around immediately after it was over and turn around to go right back in to see it again. Iron Man 3 was okay, but made me really angry the first time out (maybe too much knowledge of the character beforehand? I know nothing about Thor storylines). Star Trek Into Darkness made me furious, even after multiple viewings made me okay with it, Man of Steel was a huge let down. So far the only things that I really enjoyed were Fast 6 and the silly fun of Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters. This really took the cake. Gained points for Hiddleston, he’s fantastic. Gained points for Lady Sif being awesome. Gained points for Kat Dennings – who was almost funny enough to make me want to watch Two Broke Girls – almost. Gained points for Skarsgard running around Stonehenge naked – that’s worth the price of admission.
Bonus Video 1: EMH – This show is streaming on Netflix, and it is fantastic.
Bonus Video 2: The honest trailer for Thor 1.
Bonus Video 3: Loki taking over Comic-Con and belittling Chris Hardwick. Hiddleston is amazing.
Bonus Video 4: Cast Interviews: